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The East African : February 3rd 2014
The EastAfrican MAGAZINE FEBRUARY 1-7,2014 sho≥t sto≥y By DIANA KARANJA B reathe…” I told myself. The five minute wait seemed unbearable but I was determined to do it the right way. I clenched and unclenched my fists. Each time, I clenched my fists, my nails dug into the flesh of my palms. I mumbled a silent prayer. “God please let it be positive.” I glanced at the clock on the white tiled bathroom wall. 6.03am. Two more minutes. To distract myself, I looked around the bathroom I shared with Paul, my husband of three years. Not a comb or towel out of place. I grimaced when I remembered the first time I stepped into this bathroom. A big discoloured bathtub occupied half the room and the tiles were a mustard yellow. I looked at the clock again and the five minutes were up. My heart swelled with hope and blood surged through my body in anticipation. This time I knew we had done it. I stood up and went to the sink where I had laid the white plastic stick. I glanced at my slim body and imagined the changes that it would undergo in the next months. My hands trembling, I picked up the test stick. Blinking to clear my vision, I stared at it in disbelief. How could it be? I had all the symptoms. I brought it as close to my face as I could without poking my eyes. There was no mistake. A single red line ran across the test window. I shook it violently and checked again. The second line did not appear. A loud sob escaped me and I covered my mouth with my palm to stifle it. I flung the strip of paper away from me. Why? It didn’t matter how hard I tried, this was the one thing where my efforts did not count. Crying will not help, I told myself. But what else could I do? There was nothing wrong with me, and nothing wrong with Paul either. He had Ian, his six-year old son to prove it. No matter what the doctors said, I knew I was the problem. “Just relax and forget about it, the baby will come...” They had all said. Forget? How the hell could I forget when it was all I thought about day and night. My arms physically ached to hold our baby. A knock on the bathroom door brought me out of my thoughts. “Esther, are you OK? You’ve been in there a long time,” Paul said and opened the door. He looked at me and then at the test kit on the floor. Quickly he sat down and cradled me in his arms. Paul was not tall but his wide muscular upper body more than made up for his average height. Usually, just laying my head on his chest was enough to calm me down but not today. “Why is it so hard for me?” I cried. “I don’t know sweetheart, but I do know that what you’re doing to yourself is not healthy,” Paul said. “Can’t you just leave it, relax? If it happens it happens.” Anger swelled in my chest, and like a woman in the throes of madness, I jumped up and glared down at him. “It’s easy for you to say, isn’t it?” I snarled. “You have Ian, but what about me, what do I have?” Paul’s face fell. Slowly, he stood up and stared at me. We were the same height, Paul and I. We were like two bulls in a ring waiting for somebody to blow the whistle. A purple vein throbbed on his forehead. He closed his eyes for a moment No mo≥e sec≥ets ‘‘ and I could see that he was struggling to contain his emotions. “I have never thought for a moment I guess I should have told you… I’m sorry. I was a coward, scared you might leave me. I can’t bear to lose you, Esther. The doc said it may take a while but we’ll get there, I know we will.” that Ian was ‘my’ son. He is ‘our’ son. Not ‘my’ son. ‘Ours’.” He spoke slowly, emphasising every word. The anger dissipated as fast as it had come and I felt ashamed of myself. The truth was that I did hold Ian at a distance. Prior to getting married to Paul, I had heard horror stories about step children and how they always threw the fact that you were not their parent in your face. So to save myself the heartache and rejection, I kepy my distance. “There’s nothing I want more than our baby, but there some things in life you just need to be patient about,” Paul said. I nodded. “I’m sorry.” I said. “I’ll leave it, I prom- ise. No more monthly pregnancy tests and drama.” We both laughed, for me a bit shaky, still shocked at the depth of my emotions. A month after that morning incident in the bathroom, I felt we had finally become a family. One day I was busy at work at Mirrors, my beauty parlour which is my pride and joy, when someone interrupted my reverie: “Penny for your thoughts?” A voice asked that could Illustration: John Nyagah IX only belong to my sister-in-law Pat. “You look ready to burst!” I said jok- ingly as I ushered her in. Pat made a face and stroked her huge pregnancy bump. As I combed her hair, I stole glances at her tummy and felt a tug of longing. Remembering my promise to Paul I swallowed it back down. Pat must have noticed my stares. “I know…I look like a whale,” she sighed. “I can’t wait to look like a whale either,” I said softly. Pat looked up in surprise. “Oh, I thought Paul was hell-bent on not having any more, did he have his vasectomy reversed?” The comb slid from my fingers, and my eyes met Pat’s in the mirror. “Vasectomy?” I whispered. “Paul’s had a vasectomy?” It was Pat’s turn to be horrified. “You didn’t know?” she stuttered. “Oh God, me and my big mouth.” I fled. I drove home like a maniac. How could he lie to me, knowing how much I wanted a baby? I parked the car and slowly walked to the front door. Before I could open it, it swung open. Tears blinding me, I came face to face with Paul. “Why?” Paul pulled me into the foyer and shut the door. “I’m so sorry you found out like that. Pat told me.” “Why?” I repeated. “I watched Ian being born with so much joy and excitement. And then barely five minutes later, as I sat on Winnie’s hospital bed, chatting with her, I saw her die, right there in front of me.…” His voice trailed off. “I vowed to never to have another child but when you came into my life and a year later you wanted a baby, I fought my fear and I had the vasectomy reversed. A year ago. I guess I should have told you…I’m sorry. I was a coward, scared you might leave me. I can’t bear to lose you Esther. The doc said it may take a while but we’ll get there, I know we will.” He looked at me with such a lost expres- sion in his eyes. I couldn’t bear to lose him or Ian. “No more secrets Paul.” I said. “I don’t do secrets.” Relief flooded his eyes. “No more secrets,” he said. Send in your previously unpublished 1,200word fictional short story to eastafrican@ ke.nationmedia.com with “Magazine Short Story” as the subject.
January 27th 2014
February 10th 2014